LAMENT OVER THE CLERGY
John 12: 41-43
H. O. Tom Thomas
Jesus was once where He is now. With us confronting once again the blind guides and whitewashed tombs – the corrupted clerical class. They were responsible for the demise of Jesus. They are responsible for torpedoing many a Christian leader’s ministry over the centuries. They bear significant responsibility for the division today in our church.
Jesus’ engagement with the Pharisees and the religious authorities had come to a close. Gospel writer John summarized it this way: religious authorities had believed in Jesus in the past. They were not confessing him. Why? They ‘loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God” (John 12: 43). They wanted most the approval of the Pharisee’s.
The verb ‘loved’ is ‘hgaphsan’. It’s a verb form of agape - the love one has for God. In other words, they gave the love for God to mortals. The love deserved for God was given to humankind. They exchanged the love of God for the love of mortals.
Put it this way: they ‘agaped’ humankind rather than God. They ‘agaped’ human glory rather God’s glory. (John identifies ‘God’s glory’ as Jesus Christ). To repeat, they idolized humankind rather than adored Jesus Christ. They were idolaters.
The case then is the case now: too many UM clergy love human adoration rather than God’s approval. They want their colleagues to say, ‘We like you. You’re awesome’. Not so much for God to say, ‘I like you’. Ancient church theologian Chrysostom calls them ‘slaves to human opinion.’ They love themselves and their errant teaching more than they love Jesus. This is causing the schism dividing our church.
Loving oneself more than Jesus is at the heart of schism. Schism is the arrogant assertion of oneself against the apostolic Word of God. Promoting homosexual practice as a view superior to the apostolic Word of God is schism. It is arrogant and selfish.
This wayward doctrine is corrupting our clergy. It is corrupting our church. Our clergy leaders must bear, in large part, responsibility for our church’s disorder. Particularly bishops, also religious professors, and rank and file clergy have loved human praise more than God. Teachers must be judged with greater strictness (James 3:1).
I am embarrassed. I am ashamed. I am mortified by my colleagues. You lay folk have a right to be shocked. This is a cautionary tale to myself as well as the rest of us clergy. Beware: ‘the road to hell is paved with the skulls of Christian priests’. We are ordained to lead people out of the ditch not into it. We are called to offer salvation not dish out hell. We are to open eyes not blind them. May Jesus have mercy on the ‘Sauls’. May Jesus make them ‘Pauls’. Jesus, have mercy on our church!